In this post, I'm going to hit the highlight of our cruise dining and my least favorite meal. Because I like to take bad news first, let's start with the worst.
Giovanni's Table is the Italian specialty dining option on the Explorer of the Seas. I think the universe was trying to tell us something, when Dan and I had to bail on our first reservation at Giovanni's Table. Felix was having a rough day, so we missed dinner and Zoe went to the kid's club. Dan's parents dined without us and really had a wonderful time. They enjoyed it so much, that they wanted to go back and all six of us ended up dining there during the last days of our cruise.
Looking back on our experience, there were a number of factors that made this my least favorite meal. We dined late at night, after a very busy day and we were all very tired. It took nearly an hour for the first course to arrive and I was half asleep at the table. My first course was an uninspired caesar salad drowning in dressing. Here is a look at our starters.
Pizza was not on the menu, making the kids grumpy. However, they were able to order plain pasta with butter, always a kid pleaser.
Here is the big problem, I ordered the wrong thing. Dan's parents very much enjoyed their meals during both of their visits, but Dan and I did not. We both ordered the gnocchi with blue cheese sauce. It was heavy and far too rich. Neither of us could finish it. We should have known better than to order gnocchi. We live ten minutes from the best gnocchi in the world. The gnocchi bolognase at Trattoria Amici in Glendale is one of the best meals that I've eaten. At the risk of sounding like an Iron Chef judge, the gnocchi is like little pillows from heaven. So delicious. How could Giovanni's Table possible compete?
The starters and mains were lackluster, but the dessert cart was a fun touch. Who doesn't love dessert carts?
Gotta go with the cannoli.
Giovanni's Table = Meh.
However, the Explorer of the Seas had an amazing Japanese restaurant called Izumi.
We ate at Izumi twice, the first time was after one of the best days of the trip, a beach stop in Palma Mallorca, Spain. We ate while the ship was still in port and we had city views.
We started off with edamame and miso soup.
Living in Los Angeles, we have endless aray of amazing sushi restaurants. The sushi at Izumi was as good as anything we can get in Los Angeles. I could easily eat sushi every day of the week and by the second week of our trip, I had been missing it. Izumi gave me a taste of what I had been missing.
Fried rice came next. In the meantime, Zoe and Felix were happily eating chicken katsu and white rice. Felix actually declared the rice to be better than ice cream. This is a huge deal, because that kid loves his ice cream!
Although we started dinner with champagne, we switched to sake for the main course.
One of the signature dishes at Izumi is the hot stone. You can order various meats and vegetables, which are brought out raw with a sizzling stone, where you cook your own food. There are also several dipping sauces for more flavor.
The hot stone is entertaining, but also tricky. Certain items, like salmon, really stick to the stone. Since Dan's mom is a vegetarian, it worked out well to use one stone for all of the veggies, which were far more than she was able to eat. Izumi also offered vegetarian sushi. Really, Izumi had something to please everyone in our group.
Besides fun cooking methods, Izumi also had fun staff. They really went the extra mile to entertain us with napkin folding tricks. The best was this mouse, which they let the kids take home.
Zoe with binoculars.
Zoe as the Statue of Liberty.
Dessert included Mochi Balls, among other types of ice cream.
Our second visit to Izumi was on the last formal night of the cruise. Still full from our first visit, we tried to order less food. Tried being the key word.
Although Izumi was busier during our second visit, the staff still took the time to entertain us. This time they did origami for the kids. The butterfly was really pretty.
And to make things even more magical...we saw baby dolphins!
We skipped dessert at Izumi and headed to Ben and Jerry's. Trying to eat rapidly melting ice cream, while still in our formal attire, is one of my favorite memories from the trip.